I seem to be unable to stop digging in and reflecting on When Things Fall Apart. My memories range over its engagements with this book, most of the circumstances blurred and dissipate, but not the wisdom of the text. I was trying to explain to my teens the odd euphoria that follows suicidal determination – what neuroscience knows as “shut-down.” As the body begins to burn, or be ripped apart by fangs, riddled with bullets or smashed into bits…pain ceases to be useful to the organism and it is flooded with endorphins…a kind of blissed-out euphoria like a systemic morphine drip. “There is definitely something tender and throbbing about groundlessness,” Pema says.
But the idea isn’t shut-down. The idea is more like a drowning compression without a bottom…a fall…a float…if fear – flight; if anxiety – distract; if anguish – addictive comfort; all these options for moving away, slipping out, attempt at relief, escape, a concretization of experience, rather than its flow. It’s now-ness. This drowning compression without bottom – what if we BE THERE? What if we sit in it, and breathe. The groundlessness, bottomlessness, suddenly becomes some space. A little room…there’s opening. We don’t know what to do, don’t know where to go, don’t know how this happened, don’t know why we did. “Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all...Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.”
“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”
– all quotations Pema Chodron